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Kennedy to run first marathon

NEW YORK -- American long distance runner Bob Kennedy always
wanted to run in a marathon. Now the timing is perfect.

Kennedy announced Wednesday he will make his debut in the event
at the New York City Marathon on Nov. 7. The 33-year-old Kennedy
already has American records in the 3,000 and 5,000 meters and will
attempt to qualify for his third Olympics later this summer, this
time in the 10,000.

But he put off running in a marathon for several reasons, most
notably a string of bad luck that hampered him from 2000-02.

"In an ideal world, I would have run one already, probably a
couple years ago but my body wasn't allowing me to consider it to
be an option," Kennedy said. "So now is the right time, the next
available opportunity."

First up is the Olympic trials in Sacramento, Calif., in July.
Kennedy competed in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics in the 5,000. But
two months before the Olympic trials in 2000, Kennedy was in a car
accident and bruised his back.

The accident cost him seven weeks of training, and he didn't
qualify for Sydney. In 2001, Kennedy was diagnosed with an
underactive thyroid. He missed all of 2002 with that condition and
a foot injury.

That year, Kennedy thought about giving up the sport. He was
down on himself, and asked his wife, Melina, for advice.

"I asked her that whole fall, 'What should I do?''' he said.
"She said, 'I think you still want to run.' From that moment on,
my head was in the right place.

"I feel good about my running now. I don't really know how long
it's going to take me. I know that I'm closer to the end than I am
to the beginning."

He won the U.S. 12-kilometer cross-country title earlier this
year, which also happens to be the longest race he has ever
competed in. Kennedy also is new to the 10K, in which he has run
just four races.

His first priority is qualifying for Athens. Nine weeks before
the NYC Marathon, he will start his training under renowned coach
Dieter Hogen, who has trained marathon stars Evans Rutto and Uta
Pippig among many others.

Kennedy is the second top American to enter the marathon field,
behind Deena Kastor on the women's side. Race director Allan
Steinfeld hopes having Kennedy and Kastor in the field produces the
first American winner here since Alberto Salazar in 1982.

"We all know Bob has the speed. He has the endurance. He
certainly has the tenacity," Steinfeld said. "Come this fall we
think this is the first chance that we can have an American winner,
something we've all been waiting for, someone we can rally around.
It truly can be a red, white and blue year."

Kennedy also is thrilled to have a chance to finally run a
marathon.

"If I can stay healthy and apply that same work ethic that I've
always had, I'm excited about what the possibilities may be," he
said.